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July 18 2013

1:29 PM

McIlroy's mind playing games with him

Rory McIlroy has never won The Open Championship.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

GULLANE, Scotland -- Rory McIlroy says it's an "alien" feeling.

"It's something I've never felt before," he said after shooting 79 in the first round of The Open Championship that tied for his highest score of the season.

McIlroy was clearly at a loss to explain yet another disappointment, particularly after putting such a positive spin on things Wednesday during the world No. 2's pre-tournament interview. He said the outlook for his game was "promising" and that he was "definitely" headed in the right direction.

On Thursday, though, it didn't take long for things to go down a much different path.

McIlroy's troubles started when he made what he called a "couple of silly mental errors" that resulted in bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5. He went out in 37, then shot a 42 on the back that included two double bogeys, four bogeys, two pars and just one birdie.

"It's strange, I mean, I wish I could stand up here and tell you guys what's wrong or what I need to do to make it right, because I feel like I've got the shots, it's just a matter of going through the right thought process to hit them and that's something that I obviously haven't been doing recently," McIlroy said.

The 24-year-old Northern Irishman has already won two major championships -- including the PGA that he will defend next month -- as well as four other PGA TOUR titles so there's no disputing he has game. He says he knows he has the shots and he's capable of hitting them, but the focus simply isn't there.

McIlroy went so far as to say he's been walking around tthe golf course "unconsicous" and "brain dead" for several months. 

"All you're trying to do is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of shots as possible," McIlroy said. "That's all you're thinking about out there or trying to think about, anyway. And that's what I've been so good at in the past, and obviously that's the point I'm trying to get back to."

Although he only hit five fairways and 10 greens in regulation on Thursday, McIlroy felt like he struck the ball "okay." But McIlroy says he "needs to get my mind in a better place" if he's to have any chance of going low and making the cut.

"I'm definitely under-thinking on the golf course, maybe over-thinking it off of it," McIlroy said.

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